Thirty-four students belonging to Chakma community left the hostel of a Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) in Mizoram on Thursday, citing lack of security. School authorities and the police have maintained that the students left despite assurances that there would be no threat to their safety.
On Friday, the All India Chakma Students’ Union issued a statement on the incident and urged Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is visiting Mizoram on Saturday, to look into the matter.
A history of conflict
Chakmas, a tribal and largely Buddhist group, number about 1 lakh out of the Mizoram's 11 lakh population (according to the 2011 Census). Certain sections in Mizoram blame Chakmas for illegal migration from Bangladesh, a charge the community denies. There is a history of ethnic conflict between Mizos and Chakmas based on the allegation of influx. There are also allegations of Chakmas’ names being struck off from the voters’ list and students from the community being denied admission in colleges.
“All the 34 Chakma students, including nine girls, fled from the hostel of JNV Thenzawl in Serchhip district to their homes on 3 October 2019 due to the lack of security, intimidation and threats of torture from the Mizo students following brutal torture of Class XII student Nolin Bikash Chakma by Mizo students with iron rods at the hostel on 26 September 2019…,” Tejang Chakma, vice-president of the outfit, said in the statement.
“Last week, a scuffle had broken out over an allegation of theft. It was not a racial or communal issue,” a police officer at Thenzawl police station said.
E Abraham Abednago, principal in-charge of the school, confirmed the students left, but insisted that they did so despite multiple assurances from school authorities and district administration officials that there would be no threat to their safety.
Abednago said an official from the Serchhip DC’s office had also come down to assure the Chakma students. “The officials and I assured the Chakma students. Yet they left… ,” he said.
The Chakma students’ outfit further said in the statement, “There is an immediate need to end such torture in the educational institutions and create conducive atmosphere for return of all the 34 Chakma students… Unless the Home Minister ensures safe and secure environment inside the school premises run by the Central government, it shall be a failure of the government of India to secure the future of its children.”